Not having enough food to eat and poor nutrition can contribute significantly to chronic medical conditions to such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity. MGH Revere HealthCare Center is taking on the issue by piloting its first therapeutic food pantry. Health center leadership, Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo, and community partners came together on Friday, February 7, for a ribbon cutting ceremony to formally launch the effort.

Dr. Jacob Mirsky, primary care physician and medical director of the food pantry, spoke about the struggle with food insecurity for an alarming number of his patients. “Food insecurity is the lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life,” said Mirsky. “It’s no wonder that some of the worst control of blood pressure and diabetes across all of MGH is right here in our own backyard.”

Launching a food pantry has long been a shared vision for Dr. Roger Pasinski, Medical Director, and Debra Jacobson, Administrative Director at MGH Revere, and within a month of Dr. Mirsky’s coming on board to the health center, a multi-disciplinary team had been assembled with a plan to set things in motion.

During the pilot phase, the therapeutic food panty is not open to all health center patients or the public. It is currently available one day a week to specifically targeted patients who have Medicaid ACO insurance, have screened positive for food insecurity through the health center, and have nutrition-related chronic disease such as obesity, hypertension or diabetes.

A unique feature of the food pantry is that the food is predominantly plant-based. Dr. Mirsky pointed out that since food IS medicine, “There isn’t an ounce of red meat, cheese, soda or candy in our pantry—and there never will be.” To encourage healthy cooking, spices, pots, pans and recipe assistance are also being offered.

The vision for the future includes measuring the success of the pilot with an eye toward expansion. Mirsky and his team are hoping that eventually all MGH patients can benefit, and they are working toward becoming the healthiest food pantry in the greater Boston area. “No patient who can receive world-class cancer or cardiology treatment five miles away should go to bed hungry or suffer from preventable disease that we have the power to avoid,” said Mirsky.